Eccles’ grandson: University of Utah should ‘renounce’ $10 million from the Charles Koch Foundation

An Eccles family member wants the University of Utah to strip Marriner S. Eccles’ name off a new institute partly bankrolled by the Charles Koch Foundation — or renounce the $10 million Koch gift altogether.

“None of [Marriner S. Eccles‘] positions or accomplishments throughout his life remotely resonate with any policies or positions advanced by Charles Koch,” his grandson, Marriner C. Eccles, wrote in a letter dated Tuesday.

The descendant of the prominent Utah banker and philanthropist adds his voice to critics — including numerous U. faculty members — denouncing the Koch donation, announced last month by several members of Eccles family. The family foundations and the Koch foundation are putting in $10 million each to establish the Marriner S. Eccles Institute for Economics and Quantitative Analysis on the Salt Lake City campus.

Eccles, who lives in California, said in his letter he is not involved with the family foundations in Utah. But he does not support the decision to team up with Charles Koch, a Wichita billionaire businessman who is board chairman and CEO of the multinational corporate Koch Industries Inc.

A representative with the Charles Koch Foundation, based in Virginia, declined Friday to comment on the Eccles letter.

The U. Academic Senate will be discussing the Koch donation and related issues at a meeting Monday afternoon, though U. officials previously said Senate members usually don’t weigh in on decisions about the school accepting gifts.

Earlier this month, a group of nearly 200 faculty and staff submitted a letter to the Senate airing fears that the foundation will insert its conservative public policy agenda into the institute.

Eccles’ letter originally was included in a blog post by U. family and consumer studies professor Nicholas Wolfinger. In an email Friday, Eccles confirmed he wrote the letter but said he did not wish to elaborate.

The Charles Koch foundation has donated money to at least 300 other universities nationwide, many of which have been met with criticism that Charles Koch and his brother David Koch are seeking to interject libertarian and conservative ideology into higher education, including skepticism over climate change.

To name the U. institute after his grandfather, Eccles said in his letter, is “antithetical to what Marriner stood for his entire public life.”

“Aside from perhaps a shared belief that private economic markets are the most efficient mechanism for allocating scarce resources among completing needs, Charles Koch and Marriner Eccles have nothing in common,” he wrote.

Representatives of the Eccles family foundations have yet to comment on the letter.

An agreement covering the U. donation allows the Kochs to dole out the funding in eight, one-year increments — an arrangement that upsets many faculty members who feel that the U. should have negotiated getting all the funding up front.

Eccles wrote that the Academic Senate should ”renounce” the gradual funding arrangement. And, he said, even if the Kochs agree to give the whole $10 million gift up front, the U. should take his grandfather’s name off the building.

The U. did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.

The U. donation isn’t the first by the Charles Koch Foundation to a Utah university. In May, the foundation teamed up with the Huntsmans, another prominent Utah family, on a $50 million donation to Utah State University’s business school.

Eccles said in an email that he wants the U. community to frankly and openly discuss these issues.

“The future guidance and vision of the University is a part of this wider discussion, and all who share a love and respect for the University need to be heard both now and for future generations,” he wrote.

from The Salt Lake Tribune


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